There’s a longstanding relationship between pizza and brick. Not only do many pizzerias use brick ovens, but many pizzerias feature brick walls as part of their design. Via Della, which proudly proclaims its identity as a “slice shop,” combines both elements with a modern Pavesi brick oven inside a vintage brick building. It stands in contrast to the abundance of wood-fired pizza served only by the whole pie in the heart of Phoenix. It’s one of a handful of new places downtown with an emphasis on single slices for quick meals, as well as whole pies to go.
Via Della’s brick building is found on Fifth Avenue, just south of Van Buren and five blocks west of the light rail stations at Van Buren / First Avenue (eastbound) and Van Buren / Central (westbound). The renovation of the pizzeria’s quarters, a two-year project slowed by the pandemic, is the latest incremental step in the revitalization of the segment of Van Buren between First and Seventh avenues. With steady transformation occurring in the nearby blocks, Via Della complements nearby live music venues the Crescent Ballroom and the Van Buren.
The pizzeria’s interior is characterized by high ceilings, big windows, and bare floors. The industrial look is softened just a bit by flowers from the wholesaler next door placed in Coke bottles at each table. There’s a row of antique liquor bottles, perhaps hidden during Prohibition and unearthed later during construction, mounted on the wall. The seating is limited to a counter with four seats facing a window, five four-person tables, and a big table in the corner for larger groups. All orders are taken at the counter with food delivered to the tables as it is prepared.
The small menu is a chalkboard to the right of the counter. It’s mounted over some shelves where freshly prepared pies are displayed. Seven types are offered each day, and there is often one added special. The original pie at Via Della is an elemental yet excellent cheese pizza, prepared in a style that is more New York than Naples, with a chewy crust that folds easily and a slight sheen from olive oil. As with all the pies here, the individual slices are reheated upon order and then adorned with freshly grated parmesan before being presented on paper plates.
The pepperoni pizza at Via Della is the same basic cheese pizza as the original, just adorned with small slices of the cured meat topping. The Di Parma pie is the original with prosciutto and ricotta added during the reheating phase. Other pies here play with different sauces and toppings. The vodka pizza employs a sauce in which tomato is mediated with a splash of spirits and some gouda is mixed with the usual mozzarella cheese. The white pie foregoes tomato sauce and adds caramelized onions to the toppings and sesame seeds to the pizza crust.
The Phoenix pizza embraces the Southwestern city in its name with spicy soppressata, marinated peppers, and a drizzle of hot honey. Mixing sweetness and spice is a recurring theme at Via Della and is also seen in the special pizzas such as a recent pie combining Tuscan salami with chunks of pineapple. The final component of the Via Della assortment is grandma pizza, a rectangular pie originally from Long Island, New York. Based on a style perfected by home cooks without access to a pizza oven, it works just as well in a professional kitchen.
Although the overwhelming emphasis here is on pizza, Via Della also excels with the classic pizza companion, chicken wings. Served by the half or full dozen, these can be prepared with mild or hot traditional tomato-based sauces, a mustard-tinged golden BBQ, or, as with some of the pizzas, a hot honey mix of heat and sweet. That same duality of flavors is reinforced once again in the only other food on the menu, olives. Marinated with chilis and slivers of tangerine peel, they make an pleasing appetizer during the short wait for pizza to cook or reheat.
There is currently no dessert offered, although the online menu promises that it’s coming soon. Drinks include bottles and cans of soda, as well as a little wine and some craft beer from Arizona breweries. At this point, hours are somewhat limited due to both the restaurant still being in a soft opening phase and widespread staff shortages. Nevertheless, Via Della is building its success on the bones of an old brick building and the pizza traditions of Italy and New York. The result is another welcome addition to downtown Phoenix’s growing slice scene.
222 N. 5th Ave. Phoenix AZ 85003
Van Buren / 1st Avenue (eastbound) and Van Buren / Central (westbound) stations